Editorial: Legislators should stop the stunts

Published 11:15 am Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Minnesota legislators seem to have spent a great deal of time this year arguing about their own operating rules, including an 11-hour floor session during which Republicans objected to a DFL-authored rule that requires amendments to bills be submitted 24 hours prior to a vote.

While that rule really irked Republicans, who think it is a political ploy to take advantage of their minority status, we think it is a step in the right direction. Far too often major legislation is contrived and brought to a vote before anyone — including those voting — can fully analyze its impact. That ought to change.

Almost every budget year — and that includes this year — the Legislature ties itself into knots and then at the last moment, or perhaps after the last moment, produces a budget that is hastily voted into law. This is a troubling practice, because the budget and tax laws are complex and extraordinarily lengthy; we can not believe most lawmakers have fully understood all of the bills’ intricacies before voting. Certainly their constituents have had no time to weigh in.

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It would be far better if major legislation — the state’s two-year budget plan, changes to taxation, changes to school finances and perhaps a handful of other issues — required a waiting period of at least a week between final bill (including any amendments) and an up or down vote. We understand this is a break with tradition and thus unlikely to win favor from lawmakers. But it does make sense.

It would be no surprise if the amendment rule really was some sort of political stunt designed to gain advantage for the majority; both Minnesota parties are capable of such things. Nevertheless, it raises the possibility that both houses of the Legislature might adopt waiting period rules that would result in better budgets.